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U.S. Virgin Islands

St. Thomas Cruise Port Guide

Charlotte Amalie Known for Its Popular Duty-Free Shopping
View of St. Thomas port from the cruise ship. © 2017 Scott S. Bateman
View of St. Thomas port from the cruise ship. © 2017 Scott S. Bateman
The St. Thomas cruise port at Charlotte Amalie is one of the most popular duty-free shopping destinations in the Caribbean. It's also a common stop for any eastern Caribbean cruise.

More than 2 million people visit the U.S. Virgin Islands by cruise ship every year, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization. The vast majority go to St. Thomas. The fact that St. Thomas is so popular with cruises makes it a very commercialized experience.

Ships usually disembark passengers at the Havensight cruise termianl. Visitors can walk off the ship and right into Havensight Mall, which has more than 100 shops and the same duty-free prices as Charlotte Amalie.



Quick Travel Tips


  • Charlotte Amalie is a long walk or short taxi ride from the docks.
  • Duty-free shopping limit is double most other Caribbean islands.
  • Magens Bay has a famous and popular beach.
  • Other attractions are OK, but snorkeling is great.

    Attractions and Shore Excursions


    Walking Around Attractions


    Fort Christian St. Thomas
    Fort Christian; © U.S.V.I. Depart. of Tourism
    The convenient area around Havensight Mall has grown to the point where fewer visitors are going into Charlotte Amalie to shop. It's possible to limit shopping to the dock area, forget about Charlotte Amalie and take off after shopping for attractions and excursions.

    One unique attraction within walking distance is right by the cruise docks. The St. Thomas Skyride goes 700 feet up to the top of Flag Hill for a grander view of Charlotte Amalie and St. Thomas Harbor. Photographers will have plenty of views to shoot. Tickets at the time of this writing were $21 for teens and adults and $10.50 for children 12 and under.

    It's possible to walk into Charlotte Amalie, but it's quite a walk on a hot day at a mile and a half away. The inexpensive shuttle from the entrance of Havensight Mall into the city is a better option.

    The city has several attractions for anyone who wants to walk when they get there.

    Historical attractions include Fort Christian, the oldest structure in the Virgin Islands and dating from the early 1670s. It is just behind Veterans Drive along the waterfront. Passengers can combine a visit to the fort along with some shopping.

    On a hot day, take a break under the trees at Emancipation Garden, a small city park just behind Fort Christian.

    Blackbeard's Castle, a watch tower built in 1679, is the focal point for a tourist attraction that includes a garden, rum factory, hotel and other facilities. The site at Lille Taarne Gade is just a five minute walk north of Fort Christian.

    Shore Excursions


    The island does not have famous and popular natural attractions like some other islands, such as Stingray City at Grand Cayman or Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica. But it does have well-known commercial attractions.

    The Coral World Ocean Park and Observatory at Coki Point has a tropical nature trail, marine gardens aquarium, coral reef tank, snuba diving and an underwater observatory. It's a 25 minute drive on the opposite side of the island from the cruise docks. General admission tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for children. Animal encounters cost more; prices vary. For example, swimming with sea lions costs about $130 or more per person.

    Tree Limin' Extreme Zipline is about four miles northwest of the cruise terminal. It has six ziplines and two sky bridges. It costs about $125 per person with discounts for children.

    Beaches Near the Cruise Port


    U.S. Virgin Islands photo
    Magens Bay, St. Thomas;
    © U.S. Virgin Islands Depart. of Tourism
    Some cruise visitors just like to hit a good beach.

    Visitors can jump into a taxi and spend the afternoon at the nearest beaches, which are Limestone and Morningstar.

    Limestone is small and quiet, while Morningstar is larger and more active. Two resorts overlook Morningstar, which makes it easier to get a taxi back to the cruise ship.

    But Magens Bay is St. Thomas's most popular beach. The one-mile-long beach is a public park with calm waters protected by a heart-shaped bay. It is only four miles north of the docks and a quick ride by taxi, rental car or excursion bus. Plenty of taxis usually wait at Havensight Mall to take visitors straight to Magens Bay. Note that the beach has a $5 entrance fee per person.

    Beach chairs and floats are available for rent. Burgers, pizzas and other snacks are available for sale at the snack bar. Lifeguards are on duty every day.

    A Magens Bay shore excursion includes transportation and a beach entrance fee. At $40 per person, cruise visitors may want to arrange their own excursion.

    Coki Beach, located at Coki Point next to Coral World Ocean Park, is popular for snorkeling and diving. Services include food vendors, dive shop, jet ski rental, beach chairs and floats.

    Some operators offer an excursion via ferry from St. Thomas to the top-rated Trunk Bay Beach on St. John. The five-hour tour includes half of the time on the beach and the other half getting there and back again. Prices start at about $70 per person plus a beach entry fee.

    Otherwise, tours that involve ferries, sailboats and catamarans to St. John are common.

    Shopping / Restaurants


    Shopping


    Anyone with a big interest in shopping can start at Havensight Mall first and then move on to the town.

    Otherwise, the mall is a quick and easy shopping option for visitors planning other activities during their cruise visit.

    Walking to Charlotte Amalie from the ship and the mall is an option for very fit people with extra time; a taxi is a more likely option. Taxi rates are based on the destination, per person, and are not metered.

    Expect to pay about $8-10 to go from the dock to the town. As always, check the rate with the driver before entering the vehicle.

    Charlotte Amalie shops have many of the same goods as the mall -- jewelry, gemstones, watches, designer clothing and spirits -- but there are many more shops and of course a chance for more bargains.

    Most of the stores are on Main Street. The duty-free allowance is $1,600.

    Restaurants


    Both Havensight Mall and Charlotte Amalie town have a wide assortment of casual restaurants. U.S. dollars, credit cards and traveler's checks are widely accepted.

    Havensight Mall restaurants include Beni Iguana's Sushi Bar and Restaurant, Barefoot Buddha (sandwiches), Havensight Café, Hooters, Paradise Gate, Paradise Point Bar and Café, Senor Frogs, The Delly Deck and The Great Wall Chinese Restaurant.

    Charlotte Amalie restaurants include Big Kahuna Rum Shack, Coconuts Bar and Grill, Cuzzin's Caribbean Restaurant, Gladys Café, Golden Dragon Chinese, Hervé Restaurant and Wine Bar Restaurant, Jen's Gourmet Café and Deli, The Greenhouse Restaurant and Virgilio's Restaurant.

    Getting Around / Transportation


    Taxis on St. Thomas are not metered. The Virgin Islands Taxicab Division sets rates, which are per person and per destination.

    Expect to pay about $8-10 per person for two people to take a taxi from the cruise docks to Charlotte Amalie. Always check the rate with the driver before getting into the cab.

    Many car rental agencies are located on the island and mainly concentrated at the airport. But they usually provide free pickup and dropoff.

    Limited bus routes also are available but not recommended.

    Weather


    Warm weather isn't a problem for the U.S. Virgin Islands.

    The average high temperature ranges from 85 degrees Fahrenheit from December through March to about 90 degrees from July through September.

    Rainfall determines the best time to go. The islands receive an average of two to three inches of rain per month from December through July.

    Heavier rains begin in August and reach a high point of more than five inches in September, October and November during the peak of the Caribbean hurricane season.
    Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

     > Category: Cruise Ports   

    May 25, 2020
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